Animal welfare group refuses to return dogs to breeder


The future of 24 stolen dogs hangs in the balance as an animal welfare organization refuses to hand them over, while police demand they be returned to their owners.

Photo: Unsplash / Glen Carrie

Animal charity Helping You Help Animals (HUHA) says the dogs were removed from a Taumaranui puppy mill where they lived in cages or a barn and suffered from chronic conditions such as dislocated knees, periodontal disease, hydrocephalus and dwarfism.

Chief Executive Carolyn Press-McKenzie said the organization was contacted by an unknown person and recovered the animals, mostly pugs, under mysterious circumstances in mid-September.

“We went to Hunterville and met this person on the side of the road in the dark park, and we picked up 25 dogs. They were all very stressed and it was kind of a pretty emotional transfer.”

Press-McKenzie said the organization contacted police and the SPCA the same day because they suspected the neglected animals had been stolen.

She said the dogs, which have since been taken into the care of HUHA, were assessed by their veterinarians as being in poor to critical condition.

One of them has since died, and of the remaining 24, several others still need specialist care.

HUHA said the police demanded that the dogs be returned to the breeder, but the organization was concerned about the welfare of the animals if they were returned.

Press-McKenzie said her team planned to resist peacefully, although she was warned she could be arrested and charged with obstructing police.

“We have spoken about it as a team and we are ready to do so because we cannot ignore them knowing that they return to a situation of suffering and poor well-being.

HUHA was also concerned that a vet who saw the animals failed to notify authorities and the organization filed a complaint with the Veterinary Council, she said.

She said puppy farming is a significant problem in New Zealand and the failure of the police and SPCA to protect these dogs highlights systemic animal welfare issues.

The Veterinary Council said it was unable to confirm HUHA’s complaint for confidentiality reasons, but said complaints take an average of four months to resolve.

However, chief executive Iain McLachlan said vets have a particular duty to protect animals and alleviate suffering.

He said the conditions in the dogs described by HUHA — including fleas, overgrown nails, cysts, and underweight, antisocial, and untoilet-trained dogs — suggested health issues that would concern most veterinarians.

Neither the vet nor the breeder responded to RNZ’s requests for comment.

Police and the SPCA both said they were investigating and declined to comment further.


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